MANILA – Bearing handbells, media groups led by Altermidya Network trooped to the Department of Justice in Manila on Tuesday, January 23, to call for the immediate release of detained community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio.
The protest was in time for Frenchie Mae’s 25th birthday and the start of the official visit to the Philippines of UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan.
The bells draw inspiration from the radio program that Frenchie Mae used to host titled “Lingganay Han Kamatuoran” (Bells of Truth in Waray).
“These bells signify the unwavering spirit of journalists and their commitment to truth in the face of increasing repression,” said Avon Ang, Altermidya Network national coordinator.
“As we mark four years since Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s arrest this February, we ring these bells not only for her but for every journalist who has been persecuted for reporting the truth,” Ang stressed.
Altermidya expressed optimism that the group as well as other media will be heard by UNSR Khan during her visit to the country, where she will investigate allegations of attacks against the freedom of opinion and expression in the Philippines.
The network is among the various organizations that have submitted reports on the precarious situation of journalists in the Philippines. Altermidya highlighted in its report the continued detention of Frenchie Mae, the incessant red-tagging attacks against community journalists, and the website blocking of alternative media outfits.
“We refuse to be silenced in the face of intimidation and injustice. Today, we ring our bells to call for an end to the weaponization of the law against journalists and for the establishment of a safe environment where the press can operate without fear,” she ended. #